Center Alinko Mbah and two other Maroons jump for the loose ball during their game against the Tigers. JOSHUA MARK DALUPANG

By Mark Christian Manalang

Center Alinko Mbah and two other Maroons jump for the loose ball during their game against the Tigers. JOSHUA MARK DALUPANG

Karim Abdul’s interior dominance and Jeric Fortuna’s late heroics helped the University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers escape with a 77-70 victory over the UP Fighting Maroons in the 74th UAAP basketball competitions Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Abdul and Fortuna combined for 36 points and 15 rebounds to lead UST to its fourth victory of the season.

Abdul led the Tigers attack early by scoring 12 of his 21 points in the first half, while season’s second leading scorer Fortuna converted 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to seal the deal for the Tigers.

Meanwhile, Maroons forward Mike Silungan scored 19 points, while guard Mike Gamboa chipped in 18 points to lead UP. Forward Paolo Romero added 11 points and five rebounds.

“We were in it,” said Silungan. “But we lost our composure in the closing minutes of the game.”

The Maroons jumped to a slow start, down by as much as nine points early in the first quarter until a 9-4 run by UP trimmed the lead to four at the end of the first quarter, 18-22.

The Tigers led by 10 points in the second frame, but forward Mike Silungan hit a baseline jumper and a buzzer beating three-pointer to end the half, 33-38.

At the halfway mark of the third period, the Tigers connected on a series of open layups and jump shots that resulted to a 14-point advantage.

UST still dominated the second half, holding a 14-point cushion via layups and open jump shots given up by the Maroons. But Maroons guard Mike Gamboa kept the game within distance by sinking four triples to cut the Tigers lead to six, 52-58.

The Maroons tried to keep the game close, but the Tigers showed its dominance late in the game as Fortuna’s clutch performance – including a layup with just 30 seconds left in the game – iced the victory for UST, its second over UP this season.

Despite the tough loss, UP coach Ricky Dandan remained optimistic and praised the efforts of the Maroons, whose record falls to two wins against six losses.

“Our kids showed a lot of heart. They competed,” Dandan said. “We need more of those situations for us to learn.”

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